The 2012 Range Rover, the legendary British SUV, combines luxury and prestige with goat-like off-road abilities and still can't be topped for snob appeal.
The large, beautifully crafted Range Rover is priced at $79,425 to $94,820 and shares its V-8 with Jaguar. One engine is a 5-liter V-8 with 375 horsepower. The other is a supercharged version of that engine with a whopping 510 horsepower.
Both engines work with a responsive, smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, with manual shifting mode.
I tested the 2012 Range Rover with the 375-horsepower V-8, rated at 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on highways. But the range is decent because a driver should be able to get 20 miles per gallon during steady highway driving, and the fuel tank capacity is 27.6 gallons.
The Range Rover was redesigned for 2003 and received new engines and an interior in 2010. There are small trim changes for 2012 and a revision of option packages. A costly, hand-crafted Autobiography Ultimate Edition option provides special items, including a yacht-inspired teak-lined cargo area.
Both smooth, quiet V-8s are needed for strong performance because the Range Rover is quite heavy, with the lightest version at 5,670 pounds. The weight can be felt during rapid acceleration, fast stops and when changing lanes on freeways.
However, handling is good for a tall, heavy SUV, and braking is strong with the all-terrain anti-lock braking system. Assisting handling are a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and an all-terrain dynamic stability control system. Steering is nicely geared for both on-and off-road driving.
A fully independent electronic air suspension helps assure a good ride, although some sharp bumps can be felt.
There are plenty of advanced safety features, including seven air bags.
The Range Rover is a version of England’s Land Rover,which arrived in 1948. The Land Rover was a boxy, rugged vehicle that was England’s reply to the American Army’s go-anywhere four-wheel-drive Jeep. It was essentially an agricultural-type vehicle, but neverthless was trendy in swinging 1960s London—to go along with your British Mini Cooper and Morgan sports car.
The Land Rover was sold in a wide variety of models: short and long wheelbases, gas and diesel engines, different body styles, including pickup truck, van, station wagon—and with special-purpose coachwork. It was used by the British Army, fire departments and adventure seekers who drove it in tropical jungles and on frozen tudra.
Then the more stylish, luxurious Range Rover version arrived with four doors, automatic transmission and items including Connolly leather upholstery. That was a surprise because the Land Rover was never meant to double as a passenger car, let alone an upscale one.
The Range Rover was the first posh off-road-ready SUV. It debuted in 1970, but wasn’t introduced in America until 1987.
To put things in perspective, Ford once owned the Land Rover operation. It improved the Range Rover and gave it better quality and powerful Jaguar V-8s because Ford also owned Jaguar. It sold both makes fairly recently to an overseas outfit to concentrate on its own car line.
The Range Rover has a spotty reliability reputation, but now carries a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, besides a 24-hour “Road Recovery Service.”
Jaguar Land Rover now is the company, Land Rover is the brand. Land Rover offers the LR2, LR4, Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Sport—and the Range Rover. All are Land Rovers.
The equipment-loaded Range Rover’s quiet, decidedly uptown interior looks as if it would be at home in a Rolls-Royce, but takes extra effort to enter because it has a high floor. The white on-black gauges can be read at a glance, and the audio and climate controls can be worked fairly easily
Still, I never got the automatic climate control system to work correctly on a cold winter day. The owner’s manual might have solved this problem, but one shouldn’t have to look at a manual once the interior temperature has been set and the system’s “automatic” button is pressed.
The Range Rover can carry five occupants, but the middle of the rear seat is stiff and best left to the large fold-down armrest with its built-in cupholders. All seats provide good support, although the large front ones could use more side support. A 6-footer with long legs behind a tall driver will want more kneeroom, and occupants of all sizes may want wider rear-door openings.
The large cargo area has a two-piece tailgate, with a top half that swings up. The cargo opening with the bottom half of the tailgate flipped down is wide, but high. Thick split rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to greatly increase the cargo area.
The hood swings up on twin struts to reveal easily reached fluid-filler areas in a neatly designed engine compartment.
The Range Rover is recognized as being the lord-of-the-manor vehicle throughout the world—especially in such places as Beverly Hills and London.
Pros: Prestigious. Lush interior. Strong V-8s.Off-road prowess.
Cons: Fuel hungry. Costly. Spotty Reliability record. High Step-on. Not very sporty.
Bottom line: Remains the most prestigious large SUV.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.